Home » Psychology

Psychology

Calendar Customer Code: 
PSYCHOLOGY_DEPARTMENT

Helping Troubled Kids

Less than a year after graduating, Seth Gustafson ’14 was invited back to Grinnell’s campus to share his experiences with Professor Emeritus Doug Caulkins’ Creative Careers class. Gustafson was one of two 2014 graduates brought back to share their experiences and advice on finding a first job after college.

Gustafson works at The Pavilion Behavioral Health System, a mental health hospital in central Illinois, and does research in cognitive psychology at the Beckman Institute for Science and Technology at the University of Illinois.

Work and research

Gustafson provides therapeutic services to adolescents and adults through individual and group therapy sessions and acts as a first respondent to crises at the hospital. “At Grinnell you don’t just memorize the textbook and spit that information back,” he says. “I use my writing and critical thinking skills every day in my job.”

A regular part of his job is therapeutic crisis intervention in response to the sometimes violent outbursts of the residents. “They’re behaviorally challenged kids with mental illnesses in a residential program,” he says. “A lot of times, they gang up on either the staff or other kids. You need to think on your feet to do the best thing in a given situation.”

Gustafson learned a lot from running his first group therapy session. “You have to build rapport, and if they don’t respect you, they won’t listen,” he says. At the same time, he says, you have to establish boundaries.

In addition to his work at The Pavilion, Gustafson also does research at the University of Illinois. He has been involved in two projects there, both using virtual reality. The first studied the effect of urban versus rural settings on creativity. The second was to examine perception and reaction times of older adults crossing the street.

Intrepreneurship

In his courses, Caulkins discusses both entrepreneurship and intrepreneurship, the latter of which Gustafson has embraced. Intrapreneurship involves following the principles of entrepreneurship within a larger corporation. To that end, Gustafson is currently working to bring used exercise equipment to The Pavilion. “They had a workout area at Rosecrance where I interned,” he says, “and I wanted to see if I could bring that to The Pavilion.” Initially, he started bringing some of his own equipment to see whether anyone would seize on the opportunity. Now he is developing a partnership with a Division I football program to bring used equipment to The Pavilion.

Getting the most out of Grinnell

Gustafson spoke about the importance of taking advantage of internship opportunities and Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs). “It’s important to build experience before you get out,” he says. Gustafson attributes both his MAP and a summer internship with helping him secure his job after graduation. He took an unpaid internship at Rosecrance, a mental health/substance abuse counseling agency in Rockford, Ill., during the summer of his third year. Thanks to funding from the College, Gustafson was able to complete the internship without having to dig into his own pockets.

In addition to MAPs and internships, Gustafson encouraged current students to make use of the resources available to them on campus — specifically the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) and the Writing Lab. “The CLS would help me with my resume and cover letter. Then I’d go to writing lab and they’d help adjust the language,” he says. “That’s what got me my interviews.”

 

Psychology Tutoring

Are you looking for a Psychology tutor?

  • Available free of charge to Grinnell students of any ability
  • Use before an exam, or as a regular review and study option
  • Tutors are upper-level Grinnell College students, experienced with the material, recommended by the faculty

Whether you would like assistance with just one topic or several sections, we're happy to help. Please get in touch to discuss your needs.

Contact Barbara Brown, x 3171, office Science-1517

Business Pursuits

Psychology major Fanchao (Frank) Zhu ’15 never expected to receive intensive business preparation as a liberal arts student. A scholarship through the College’s Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) has changed his perspective.

The psychology major from Nanjing, China attended the prestigious Stanford University Summer Institute in General Management that he describes as “a mini-MBA.”

“The program gave me a taste of everything in business,” says Zhu, who works in his family’s small chain of restaurants. “Now I know what I am really passionate about in business — entrepreneurship and marketing.”

Liberal arts and business can combine into a powerful mix. Just peek into the college backgrounds of CEOs at some of the nation’s most well known companies. Hiring professionals also prize liberal arts students who can think creatively and critically.

Business Binge

The summer business programs inspire students and complement Grinnell.

“When coupled with their academic and co-curricular experiences at Grinnell, these summer programs expand and refine the participants’ soft and hard skills as they prepare for their post-graduate careers in business and other sectors of the economy,” says Mark Peltz, Daniel ’77 and Patricia Jipp Finkelman ’80 Dean in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service.

Frank Zhu and Thatcher HealyLast summer, Zhu and Thatcher Healy ’16 (pictured) attended the Stanford Institute and Chi Nguyen ’15 and Joseph Wlos ’16 attended the University of Chicago’s Booth Summer Business Scholars Program.

Students studied finance, corporate operations, marketing, accounting, and human resources. They also interacted with professors, other students, and local business professionals. Students visited companies such as Intel, which was co-founded by Robert N. Noyce ’49.

Value of Studying Business

Healy, a biological chemistry major from Mill Valley, Calif., wanted to learn more about the business side of biotech.

“The Stanford program helped me understand how I could apply what I’ve been learning in Grinnell to a job in the future,” Healy says. “I feel equipped to market myself to a business or start my own business if I wanted to.”

All students can benefit from having a business background, Healy says.

“It is pertinent to most all fields of study,” he says. “Especially for those seniors who are lost on what to do after undergrad or how to apply their expertise into a lucrative career.”

The program has excited Nguyen about the possibility of earning an MBA after graduation. She especially liked working with a diverse mix of students from around the world.

“Academically, the concepts that I learn will help me with my senior seminar in macro finance,” she says. “Activities from the program also inspired me to start some similar workshops about business and professional skills in Grinnell.”

Opportunities for Summer 2015

Next summer 2015, CLS will offer two scholarships to Chicago’s Booth Program, which Peltz said fits well with Grinnell’s priorities. Scholarships include tuition, housing, most meals, and a travel stipend.

Fanchao (Frank) Zhu ’15 is a psychology major from Nanjing, China. Thatcher Healy ’16 is a biological chemistry major from Mill Valley, Calif. Chi Nguyen ’15 is a French and economics double major from Ha Noi, Vietnam. Joseph Wlos ’16 is a political science major from Crete, Ill.

Changing the Face of Science

Jessi L. Smith, a noted expert on social psychology, will deliver the Scholars' Convocation at noon Wednesday, April 1, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101. The lecture is free and open to the public with a free pizza lunch provided.

Smith, a professor of psychology at Montana State University, has conducted extensive research on theories of stereotypes, with a focus on understanding the practices and policies that create equitable environments. At MSU, she chairs a 47-member team charged with enhancing faculty diversity and equity in order to foster learning among all faculty and students.

Smith's talk, titled "Changing the Face of Science: How to Create a More Diverse and Inclusive STEM Community," will feature Smith's work in experimental social psychological science. Smith will present her findings on the prevalent role of unintentional biases within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) community, and discuss how to create more equitable environments in these fields.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations.

Shaping Students

Two Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) in theatre, one in chemistry, an internship with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and a job managing the campus pub — the key points on Ben Doehr ’15’s resume indicate the chemistry/economics double major’s depth and breadth of knowledge.

Grinnell strives to produce “T-shaped students” such as Doehr, the depth and breadth represented respectively by the vertical and horizontal line of a T. This model stands in contrast to both the traditional university model, which emphasizes depth, and the perception of the liberal arts model, which is sometimes viewed as providing a base of knowledge a mile wide and an inch deep.

When they were applying to colleges, both Doehr and Iulia Iordache ’15 wanted something they struggled to find elsewhere. Iordache was looking for an alternative to the system of higher education in her native Romania, which would have required her to know exactly what she wanted to study when she applied. Doehr wanted to have the opportunity to study physics and economics in depth while also doing technical theatre and design work. 

Both have credited the College with expanding their knowledge within their key areas of study and helping them develop transferrable skills such as critical thinking and strong writing skills.

Developing deeper understanding

Doehr and Iordache point to MAPs as a key means of gaining depth. MAPs offer students the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor. The results of these collaborations are frequently presented at academic and professional conferences as well as on campus.

Doehr likes to joke that being manager of the campus pub, Lyle’s, has taught him as much about economics as his coursework has. It’s not that much of an exaggeration: “Managing the pub gave me a very hands-on experience on the practical side of things,” Doehr says. His MAPs with the theatre department also allowed him hands-on work with interactive design. He and fellow student Caleb Sponheim ’15 created a series of three interactive installations in Roberts Theatre.

Iordache also credits her professors — both the degree to which they care about their students’ success and how accessible they are — for the depth of her knowledge. Iordache completed an education MAP that involved traveling to Romania to study the impact of voluntourism on the local population. Initially, she intended to be an economics major, but changed her mind and pursued psychology instead. She added a second major in Russian, and after completing a summer MAP with Assistant Professor of education Cori Jakubiak, decided to pursue international education when she graduates.

Establishing a broad base of knowledge

Iordache came to Grinnell in part because the open curriculum allowed her a chance to explore her interests. Outside of class, her perspective has been broadened by the views of other students. On a regular basis, she finds herself having conversations that relate to what she is studying. “We were talking about dualism in my psychology class,” Iordache says, “and I ended up having a conversation about dualism versus materialism in the Grill with a friend who wasn’t even in the class. It was a great discussion.” Iordache enjoys these kinds of conversations because everyone brings their own knowledge to bear on a subject.

A summer internship with the FDIC helped Doehr realize how his breadth of knowledge benefited him outside classes. He walked in knowing very little about the day-to-day operations of the FDIC, but quickly learned how the organization worked. He worked with a number of young FDIC employees and found that he could write on the same professional level as they could. He credits his liberal arts education for both his writing skills and giving him the ability to tackle new problems without being specifically trained for them.

Lopatto receives national honor for advancing science

David LopattoGrinnell College Professor of Psychology and Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Professor of Natural Science and Mathematics David E. Lopatto has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

As part of the Education Section, Lopatto was elected as an AAAS Fellow for his comprehensive and practical assessment of undergraduate science research experiences, including student learning outcomes, career choices and attitudes across a range of institutional settings.

Lopatto is among 401 AAAS members who have been selected as Fellows by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The accomplishments of the new Fellows will be celebrated at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in February in San Jose, California. This year’s AAAS Fellows also will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on Friday, Nov. 28.

"It is exciting to be honored by AAAS, an organization that values the synthesis of science and science education," Lopatto said.

In addition to teaching in the psychology department since 1981, Lopatto has served terms as chair of the faculty and interim dean of Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. He currently directs the College's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.

His research on the psychology of learning and motivation has come to focus on the learning outcomes of undergraduate experiences in science, especially the effect of undergraduate research experience on student learning, career choice and attitude. He is the author of several surveys for the assessment of undergraduate science learning that are used by more than 150 institutions and more than 10,000 undergraduates annually. 

His extensive published work includes Science in Solution: The Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning. This influential work uncovers the complex career and personal gains undergraduate students acquire from doing authentic research with faculty mentors.

In his book, Lopatto suggests that undergraduate research may be a generator of scientists from across diverse groups of students. Personal development is the deep outcome of a research experience from which career choices grow, Lopatto found. These undergraduate research experiences benefit students across the science disciplines, having characteristic features that enable success.

These features include good mentoring, student input, working in teams, optimal structuring and opportunities for communication. Research presented in the book documents the connection of these features to the benefits of undergraduate research. Such benefits include career clarification, improvement of technical and research skills, and experience with communication and the larger scientific community. They also include a variety of personal benefits, including greater independence of work and thought, tolerance for obstacles and growing self-confidence.  

A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Lopatto received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Kenyon College. He also holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Ohio University.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected.

Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

The Council is the policymaking body of the Association, chaired by the AAAS president, and consisting of the members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

For the Love of Science

Before classes begin, the Grinnell Science Project (GSP) brings together selected students who are interested in science and creates a community that helps them feel comfortable with college life both inside and outside the classroom.

“GSP was a huge blessing. For one thing, the program got me a head start on understanding the confusing passageways of the mysterious Noyce Science Center. But it did so much more than that. I met a lot of people who shared my common interests, was acquainted with professors that I had class with later in my college career, and gained a lot of confidence in myself during GSP,” says Lizzie Eason ’17, who participated in the program last year.

GSP students meeting with a birdOne aspect of the program is a week-long pre-orientation  program.  Over the course of a week, students learn about the services and structures of the College.

The program responds to different learning styles — favoring workshop- and project-based classes in addition to lectures — and provides both role models and contexts for the study of science. “Grinnell students feel that they are part of a scientific community, we accommodate different learning styles with different pedagogical approaches, and we involve students in faculty research from the beginning of their experience here,” says Jim Swartz, Dack Professor of Chemistry.

Faculty members discuss various aspects of Grinnell’s academic program and strategies for excelling in science and mathematics courses. The GSP students participate in both sample classes and a research project.

“It was nice to just get used to the college environment without having to stress about classes. I could take time to really make friends, get advice from professors, and just enjoy myself, which is something I don't think I would have had much time to do if I had come to Grinnell when classes began,” says Eason.

Students work together to solve a puzzleIn the early 1990s, Grinnell observed that students — especially women, first-generation college students, and students of color — would enter Grinnell intending to major in the sciences, then fail to do well in the introductory courses and choose a major in another division. With data gathered from students, the College discovered that environmental and socioeconomic factors were interfering with students’ academic success in the sciences.

GSP teaches science the way science is actually practiced. It also creates a peer as well as faculty and staff support network for students. In addition to GSP participants, lots of other students have benefitted from curricular changes that accompanied the Grinnell Science Project.

“One of the most significant measures of success is that components of the Grinnell Science Project are now mainstream throughout our science curriculum,” says Swartz. Grinnell’s introductory biology course, which is required for all biology and biological chemistry majors is project-based. Introductory computer science courses are designed similarly, and mathematics, chemistry, physics, and psychology courses use a number of active learning techniques.

In the three years before GSP began, an average of 42 women and eight students of color graduated with science degrees each year. By 2008, each number had more than doubled. Ninety women and 21 students of color graduated with science degrees that year. Hundreds of students have participated in GSP, and thousands more benefited from curricular changes and mentoring relationships established by the program.

Lizzie Eason ’17 is from Lamoni, Iowa and has not yet declared a major.

2014 GSP students, faculty, and staff

2014 Grinnell Science Project

Service Learning Success

At Grinnell, an array of class-related experiences outside of the main academic buildings gives students a chance to dig deeper into topics in real-world settings.

Take Asani Seawell’s Advanced Health Psychology course, for example. Seawell, an associate professor of psychology, used the class to offer students deeper knowledge while also helping their community. With the assistance of Susan Sanning, assistant director of service learning and engagement with the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, the students in Seawell’s course developed community interventions that aim to ease adolescent obesity.

The course combines Grinnell’s extensive commitment to community engagement and social responsibility.

Investigation and Introspection

The course focused on the creation of a number of community interventions. The students spent their time in and out of the classroom examining obesity issues. They observed and interviewed patients who were having bariatric surgeries at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center. Some students interviewed patients who were undergoing surgery long after their dramatic weight loss following bariatric surgery, such as a breast reconstruction and a skin removal procedure.

As a result of personal interactions and observations and examining the primary literature, Seawell’s students gained a much more nuanced view of obesity. “Now I question everything,” says Beth Gillig ’15. “I’m more of a critical thinker.”

The class also extended students’ knowledge of the community, thanks to Susan Sanning, who helped them find community partners. “One focus of the class was to highlight obesity in a different way,” says Emily Twedell ’15, “and it did.” “We also designed community interventions so that there’s no disconnect between the researchers and the community,” says Gillig.

Intervention Implementation

Asani Seawell and students

Last year, Ellie Garza ’14 developed an intervention in Seawell’s class that would help children ages 2 to 12 learn about nutrition and grocery stores. She and Sanning worked with Hy-Vee to establish the healthy kids kiosk. Garza considered the needs of the community and sustainability issues when planning this project. “I wanted this to be something community members could pick up on their own,” she says.

Between the class and the implementation of her proposal, Garza figured out her next steps after graduation. “This class and the project inspired me to apply for health psychology research positions,” says Garza, who will be working at a research lab at Northwestern University where she will be involved in implementing a behavioral intervention for individuals struggling with obesity. Being able to make her intervention happen outside of class was one of the opportunities that steered Garza in this direction.

This year’s proposed projects ranged from a partnership with 4-H to a cookbook, a series of community walks, and a program at a local youth center. When the students return to Grinnell in the fall, they will have the opportunity to meet with community organizations to repeat the success of the healthy kids kiosk with their own projects.